Even if You’re Not Training For a Race Speed Play and Faster Workouts are Fun…Even Addicting

Not everyone runs to race. On the flip side I’ve known runners who really ONLY run to race. The latter are the ones that need the extra endorphin and adrenaline fix of race day to keep them motivated to put in the training and stay dedicated. Their motivation can lull in the off-season and they are the ones who may say, “The day of my last race I’m hanging up the shoes all together and gonna get as fat as humanly possible.” (No, they don’t all say this but I’ve got a friend who did and though laughing, truly meant it…haha.)
tinkerbell running
But for the people who just run to run, or if they do run a race the clock is a non-factor, I’ve gotten the question, “Why should I do anything more than my usual ‘easy’ runs? Why bother with speed workouts, or any kind of structured workouts at all?”

Valid point and I’m guilty of getting stuck in the ‘pace rut’ of going through large chunks of time where yea, I’d be putting in plenty of daily miles, but they were just ‘running’ running and hardly training running.

But let’s face it, it’s fun to challenge yourself sometimes! Yea, picking up the pace hurts but toying around with different speeds becomes addicting…and once you get the ball rolling and see improvement that builds a wave of motivation momentum.

* Surges and Striders: if you’re coming off a large chunk of time where you’ve just been ‘putting in the miles’ start integrating pick-ups, or surges, into your runs. Just pick up the pace for a 150 meters or so and feel your legs get that faster turn-over. You can also add these in after your run with strides.

* Fartleks and Relaxed Intervals: unstructured workouts, or loosely structured ones, can feel liberating while still getting you working. If you’re not exactly training for an event, or have a long time out, start with fartleks and play around with varying the minutes on to minutes off. Do sets of one minute hard, then one minute easy; you could do a pyramid style fartlek where the hard minutes go 1:2:3:2:1; or invent your own combo.
track runner
* Break-down and Progression Runs: these are runs that just start out as an easy run but you gradually get faster over the distance and by the end (depending on the run) you could be running at or near a race pace. These runs are great training tools for those actually planning on racing an event because you can structure them so that the main chunk of the run is used as a recovery day but with the end, by including some race pace or faster running you can ‘sneak in’ extra intensity that won’t take that much out of you. Thus, you’ll get in some work without leaving you too depleted to perform well in your next actual workout. These runs can be fun because once you get in the groove and the pace starts to quicken, especially if you’re with a partner or group, those endorphins kick in and pushing it feels oddly exhilarating. Yea, it hurts, but in that good way.

The point is, even if you’re not out there still planning to race yourself all out or in quest of a PR, it IS still fun to do actual workouts, be it hill repeats, tempos, intervals, or just some loosely mapped out fartleks. If you’re not in training this is where you can just be creative and do things more on the fly.

Yes, putting in the miles and running for the pleasure of it (and the liberty to eat like a runner!) is totally awesome…but sometimes even a runner for life craves a little speed play. ;)

1) How would you define your running; do you run ‘to run’, run to race, or somewhere in between?

2) If you’re not racing for a team of have seasons, do you run many races yourself?

3) Do you enjoy mixing up your runs and workouts with speed play or adding hills? What do you like to do?

4) Do you see yourself as a ‘lifer’ when it comes to running?
YES! :)

Bookmark and Share

Indoor Track: Race it or Skip it…AND Falling into Pinterest

I feel into Pinterest. Actually apparently now you have to beg your way into the site and actually get invited…wow, the egos on these social media sites!


Pinterest even rode in on a unicorn and handed me the invite. ;)

So I now have another way to waste ungodly amounts of time toss up my work, so please come follow me! Overt plug…yes, but I’ve got other boards too where I’m not hogging the spotlight, I spread the love. ;) Come pin me!

There are some serious races going off this weekend and indoor track season is rolling in full force! Growing up in California where indoor track is virtually unheard of (I didn’t even run on one until I was out of high school) this time of year was pretty much just base building until outdoor track season.

There are positives and negatives to running indoors, having three seasons instead of two.

Some Pro’s:
* Keeps you sharp
* Keeps you hungruy and motivated (I know some runners find it difficult to WANT to bust their bums if there isn’t the incentive of a race coming up)
* Another season and another chance to set PR’s and win do well in races

The Con’s:
* Three seasons is a lot and can be tiring
* Not racing and building a stronger base can pay off with a better outdoor season

It’s more about what your priorities are and where your bigger goals lie.
If you’re really wanting to capitalize on a powerful finish to outdoor track, or had a really long cross-country season, perhaps skipping indoors or at least not focusing too heavily on it is the way to go. Lots of athletes sort of ‘train through’ indoors, don’t taper too much for the races, don’t exactly put in the speed training and race more to just get a progress check, keep the legs moving, and just get that racing feeling.
runners booty lock
Regardless, as a track fan/nerd it’s always awesome to be able to watch and see what happens any time a gun goes off.

1) Do you run, or have you run, indoor races? Were you big into the indoor season?
I’ve only run a handful of indoor races, am I the only one who gets a nasty case of raspy throat after racing in the stuffy air?

2) Would you prefer two seasons or three?
I’d be up doing some indoor races, but probably go the more train through them route if I were still competing…or rather, whatever my coach thought was best. It’s always nice to put the racing shoes on from time to time.

3) Are you a track nerd and following the races this weekend?
What do you think?

4) Who’s on Pinterest?? What social media sites do you use the most?

Bookmark and Share

Get Faster by Getting Stronger Running Hills – Build Strength to Gain Speed

Jack and Jill ran up a hill to make them faster runners. Jack fell down ‘cuz he couldn’t keep pace and Jill went barreling up faster. I think I like that nursery rhyme better, don’t you?
trail runner
Hill running, hill repeats, hill tempos, hilly switch-backs, hilly long runs. All of them can improve your strength and speed as a runner. Some people seem to think that runners fall into one of two categories: hill runners or flat runners. To some degree it’s true, you may naturally be better at climbing than someone else, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve by running hill.

“I by no means think I have mastered the hills or climbing but I am improving and for me that means hours running up vertical inclines, sometimes fast sometimes just a long grind, but always pushing to get better,” explains ultra marathoning champ Michael Wardian, “I am trying to do hills a few times a week, that is a weakness or has been so I want to fix that.”

During base training season is another instance where adding hillier routes into the mix is a great idea. “But I’m getting ready for track season, not cross-country, why should I be doing hill repeats now?” you may wonder. The answer is because hills will make you FASTER on the flats. The power and strength you gain from running up hills will translate to being speedier when you go back down to the flats.

Don’t believe me, then try this. When I was training with the Nike Oregon Project, Alberto Salazar would have us drive out to this sketchy little track at a local YMCA. It was comical that Olympians (not me, my training partners, trust me, I know my place! haha) would be busting out workouts while dodging potholes in lane one and sharing the track with tons of walkers who were completely oblivious. Why did we go to this track, because it sat right next to a hill where we could alternate between track intervals and hill repeats.

Try This Hill Sprints Workout:

* Warm-up (duh)
* 4×200 meters on a track (with 200 meter recovery jog)
* 8×200 meter hill charge (easy jog back down for recovery)
* 4×200 meters on track (with 200 meter recovery jog)
* Cool-down

How much ‘easier’ did that second set of 200′s feel once you were back down on the track? Compared to the hill blasts you probably felt like you dropped the sandbags you were carrying. Strength from hills = speed for flats. If you don’t have a track next to a hill you could do this on the treadmill and adjust the grade.

track runner

hill power = track speed

Short hill repeats are just one example. Even doing your ‘easy’ days on hillier routes will build up those quads. With anything in your training you want variety, so mix it up. Doing a tempo run uphill is a go-to workout for the Hudson Training Systems group; Coach Brad Hudson stresses that here the focus is not so much on the actual splits but effort.

Long hill repeats…back to pothole, podunk track we’d do track/hill/track combo workouts anywhere up to 800 meters on the hill. That’s the longest this particular hill was, but that’s hardly stopping anyone from finding a longer hill. Back to Wardian, who actually does a lot of his training on a treadmill, he likes to do repeats of 3 miles in length; he ramps the incline up each mile starting at a 4% and ending at 8%.

The thing you do have to be very careful about in running hill repeat type workouts is running the downhills which is really tough on the knees in particular. Go really easy and keep in mind if you’re doing a long run with lots of rolling hills or downhills your quads can get mighty sore from the downhill portions…you may not think that would be the case!

With anything, practice makes perfect and there is a technique to running uphill. (Downhill too, but for brevity sake I’ll cover that in another post) Don’t let yourself hunch over; stand tall, if you feel your shoulders up in your ears, shake out your arms and relax.

Keep your eyes locked up and to the summit, that helps with staying tall, and be sure to power through the top and up over the crest. Don’t stop right before the top because you’ll break all the momentum you built up…you want to use the momentum to keep you moving and then fly back down the backside. (If you’re racing that helps a lot! What goes up must go down.)

So don’t be like Jack, follow Jill and tackle that hill. Then when it is track time you’ll feel that much faster.

1) Do you like running hills? Do you consider yourself a hill runner?
I tend to do a little better on flats…I need to build up some quad strength!

2) What kinds of hill workouts or runs do you do, if any? Do you do treadmill incline workouts?

3) Do you live near hilly trails or running routes? If not, how do you simulate hills?

Bookmark and Share

The Off Season and Base Training – Don’t Lose Touch With All of Your Speed

“I’m just building my base right now.” How many times have you heard this, or maybe you’ve been the one saying it? Probably countless times.

runner on trails

The off season is also a great time to hit up some hill work...strength there translates to speed later!

Runners who are consistent are constantly building a ‘base’; yes those who log more miles per week are probably building a bigger one, though not always. There is something to be argued in the way if one runner is running a high volume but doing only easy runs as not being as ‘fit’ as another runner who could be doing less miles but hitting a higher quality load with weekly workouts. But that’s getting a bit off topic.

Building a base is usually the term runners use for between season training. (Or if they are getting back after a long running hiatus) Here the focus is to set a strong cardiovascular foundation by upping the miles. Then, when the season’s ‘real’ training begins they will overlay this foundation with the faster workouts, intervals, and speed. It’s a sound theory and what I’d recommend; you shouldn’t be nailing 400 repeats in January if you’re not going to be racing until the outdoor track season.

Runners DO need a high aerobic capacity as you draw off of that, and the metaphor of laying a foundation and laying the speedwork on top of that works well. We’ll think of that base as the cake and the 400′s can be your icing…yum.

But when you’re doing that base building you don’t want to completely neglect those faster twitch muscle fibers completely. If all you do for months and months are slow miles, come time to hit the track and even tempo work you’re going to feel like one rusty nail! You still want your muscles to have recent memories of what it feels like to run quick; so, even during these ‘base building’ times you want to give them reminders. Don’t completely lose touch with a faster tempo.

So while you’re upping the miles (and do this safely people, we know we don’t go from doing 20 miles one week to 40 the next) still play around with various speeds. Don’t get stuck in the ‘easy/slow’ mode. One day do a tempo run; since it’s so early don’t stress about the times but go for effort and it shouldn’t be all-out. Base building puts a lot of focus on the long run; every couple of weeks push the middle miles of that or make it into a fartlek run. Then, pick two days (not after a tempo or harder long run) and finish with some strides. Again, they don’t have to be the kind where you spike up and hammer it, but get that turnover going.

Have fun with the off season because here structure isn’t all that important…run some fartleks that don’t have set parameters and you could even make them up on the fly. Run hard because it feels good, recover for a bit, and then do it again. Play around with it and to sound like a cliche have fun. That’s why we do this running thing after all, right?

girl in ice cream

It's not cake...but you get the idea. ;)

So build that cake ‘base’ but even during the off-season don’t forget to add a little bit of icing as well…I mean no one wants a cake without any icing, that’s the best part!

Even if you’re not doing any kind of traditional racing seasons (cross country/track) try mixing up those runs if you’re not doing much outside of easy running. The thing is that the body is a master at adapting and go too long with running one speed and you’ll get stuck in a rut.

1) When you think of base building, what comes to mind?

2) Do you play around with your long runs, or typically do them all as relaxed runs?

3) For workouts, do you have them pre-planned or come up with them on the fly?

4) Haven’t asked this before but do you count your weekly mileage? Where do you like to keep the weekly totals?

Bookmark and Share